Dark Smoke Signals the election of a new Pope for Sinners - An Interview
Synthronicity: Make no mistake about it since this guy tore onto the retrowave scene back in 2018 he has been making incredible waves ever since with his raw darksynth sentimentality. After the success of his first few singles he came to the attention of Retro Reverb Records and joined their ever growing and impressive roster where he is to this day. Fresh from his much lauded live-stream last week I caught up with him to learn a little more about this dark man of cloth...read on
Tell us a little about you, where you’re from and how you got started in Music?
My real name is Alex Pope - my surname gave me the inspiration for Dark Smoke Signal (the signal from the Vatican when a Pope remains un-elected). I am based in Bristol in the UK (in a little village right next to a place called Portishead if you’re a fan of 90s trip hop and have been making synth based music in earnest for a couple of years now but been involved in music creation for about 25 years. I have a degree in Sound Engineering but that was in pre-pentium chip days so I know how to slice n dice reel tape! The first music I self-taught was the intro to ‘Nothing else Matters’ by Metallica on a nylon string acoustic and I was hooked.
How would you describe the music you make?
I’d say I kind of slot in the middle ground between Synthwave/pop sensibilities and Darksynth. Perhaps in the area where Gunship lie? (stop sniggering at the back, yes I know I’m not in their league…yet!) I’m not afraid to show my emotions in a song, or go with a pop hook, but equally my tracks can snarl in your face and make uncomfortable listening.
Tell us your best and worse gig experience?
Playing or attending? Best gig for me so far was opening up Space Jam’s debut Darksynth night here in Bristol. The crowd were so up for it, I really had a blast and the feedback afterwards was so positive. I love playing live and have a drummer on board for when we can open up the venues again. I’ve trademarked the term ‘The Smoke Pit’ for future Darksynth nights I play. Mwah ha haaa Worse gig experience was probably playing an empty pub in the arse end of Cornwall on January 2nd , turning up before the promoter and the owner saying he didn’t have a PA system…that was certainly challenging! My last gig supporting LeBrock was ace but I had an issue with the bloody mic stand which kept drooping down whenever I let it go to play keys or guitar so I ended up by the end of a song singing to my knees! ha
Is there anything new you’re working on currently that you’d like to share a little bit about?
After the album I’ve eased off a bit for a while as my wife will divorce me otherwise BUT I have a couple of really exciting collabs in the pipeline.. one with a talented male artist already known in the scene and the other with a female vocalist who hasn’t released any synth music yet and I adore her voice, Celtic tang to it so watch this space! I promise no D-50 Pizza gogo preset like Enya though (unless people want that?!) So I think I’m going to do some more vocal tracks for a while in the singer/songwriter mould.
Who would you like to play you in a movie of your life?
Hmmm… A cross between Dolph Lungren and Richard Pryor… Imagine that.
What sound do you love the most?
A well executed distorted chuggy riff. Either on synth or guitar. See Dance with the Dead
Do you have a day job? How do you balance this with the passion for creating the great music that you do?
I’m a software tester – so it’s my job to try and break new products and have a fine attention to detail – hopefully that comes across in my music.
If you’re having a bad day what do you do to make yourself feel better?
Get outside. Away from people. Birdsong and the feel of the Wind sort me out. God that sound pretentious, haha
Who is your celebrity crush?
Ana de Armas is pretty smoking.
Her or Synthronicity on Insta is pretty fly too
If you could collaborate with anyone else on the scene who would it be and why?
Carpenter Brut. I don’t think I need to explain why. For me, he’s a pioneer and the best of the best. The Topgun.
Who or what got you into the Synth scene initially?
I can actually name the exact four songs that got me hooked when I started down the rabbit hole; Protovision, America 2, Dark all Day and of course, Turbo Killer.
How do you feel about the popularity of the Synth Genre as a whole and the new Generation of Producers who keep evolving?
It’s fantastic. Pushing the boundaries, combining genres, bring it on. Fixt are trying their best to break through the ceiling aren’t they? Who knows, the next ‘Linkin Park’ or similar could be from Synthwave. There’s a lot of shit out there, lot’s of copying going on but same with all music. Cream mostly rises to the top.
What type of Hardware/Software to you use, do you have a preference?
Software. Cos I’m still learning the craft and the quantise button in a DAW is golden. Hat’s off to the hardware users like Waveshaper and Protovolt – I’m in love with their videos and think of them as Gods. Would love to own more hardware but don’t have the spondooleys… hint hint Spotify…
Dark Smoke Signal Links:
Bandcamp: https://darksmokesignal.bandcamp.com/album/the-antipope-resurrection (still some cassette tapes available)